Thule

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This article is about the fabled island. For other uses of the term Thule, please see Thule (disambiguation).

Thule or Tile is in classic sources a place, usually an island, in the far north, often Scandinavia. Ultima Thule in medieval geographies may also denote any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world".

Accounts

It was first mentioned by the Greek geographer and explorer Pytheas of Massalía (present-day Marseille) in the 4th century BC. Pytheas claimed that Thule was the northernmost country, six days north of the island of Great Britain. He also claimed that the midsummer sun never set there. Thule is sometimes seen to have some commonality with Atlantis. The most likely locale for Thule is nowadays considered to be the coast of Norway; however other historians think it was the Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, Iceland, or Saaremaa.

In Procopius, Thule was a large island in the north inhabited by 25 tribes. It is clearly Scandinavia since several tribes are easily identified, such as the Geats (Gautoi) and the Saami (Scrithiphini). He also wrote that when the Heruls returned, they passed the Varni and the Danes and then crossed the sea to Thule, where they settled beside the Geats.

In the Middle Ages, the name was sometimes used to denote Greenland, Svalbard or Iceland, such as by Bremen's Deeds of Bishops of the Hamburg Church, where he probably cites old writers' usage of Thule.

Modern use

A municipality in North Greenland was formerly named Thule after the mythical place. The Thule People, a paleo-Eskimo culture and a predecessor of modern Inuit Greenlanders, was named after the Thule region. In 1953, Thule became Thule Air Base, operated by United States Air Force. The population was forced to resettle to Qaanaaq, 67 miles to the north. Hunting activities here are described in the January 2006 National Geographic. (76 31'50.21"N, 68 42'36.13"W only 840 NM from the North Pole)

Southern Thule is a collection of the three southernmost islands in the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. The island group is overseas territory of the United Kingdom and uninhabited.

Thule lends its name to the 69th element in the periodic table, Thulium.

In popular culture

In the comic strip Prince Valiant, the title character is said to be the 'Prince of Thule'. The Spanish comic strip Capitán Trueno, the girlfriend of the protagonist is a Viking princess born in Thule. Vladimir Nabokov worked on a story entitled Ultima Thule, aspects of which eventually came to be essential parts of his novel Pale Fire. In a poem Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe, protagonist (poet) comes 'from an ultimate dim Thule'.